June, Year 5
"In latest news, the emerging budget crisis in Fort Simian has reached new heights as treasurer Chris Bowandarrow signaled the need to consider unconventional methods for recovering the cost of loans incurred as a result of the giant lizard disaster earlier this year. Shadow treasurer Mike Baseball has continued the opposition attack, claiming that the loans weren't needed in the first place, and furthering opposition calls for a fresh election in the face of polls showing a disastrous collapse in support of the new government. The Fort Simian city hall has been inundated with protesters on a daily basis, in which opposition members have been most vocal in calling for the government to resign. Opposition leader Rick Green claims the lack of resolution on the origins of the giant lizard, and the paucity of information regarding the investigation of Aaron Pyne's alleged murder are signs that the government is incompetent and ineligible to manage Fort Simian any longer, that they have breached the trust of locals. Rick Green also cites the failure to reduce industrial taxation, and the increase in commercial taxation introduced to cope with the loss of revenue associated with the loans to repair the city, policies that Green claims he would reverse immediately if elected."
The radio news bulletin continued to spill forth the details of the dreary situation in Fort Simian as the car came to a stop at an intersection under the main overpass at the Simian Hill city entrance. Gillian Maholm sat in the rear, her face showing the disdain evident at being forcibly taken back to her dredge site camp at Wax Ridge under the orders of Clayton Brand.
Simian Hill overpass during early morning traffic.
Ever since the lizard disaster, Maholm and Gutierrez had been ordered to remain at the Simian Ridge dredge site under watchful eye. Gillian was reluctant to discuss the events in the Trade HQ that led to their faux incarceration, something that Fort Simian reporter Moe Rackswell had been eager to discover ever since learning of their prominence during his ejection from the Trade HQ. Upon learning of Maholm's reappearance in Simian Hill, Rackswell had ventured to the mining area, his interest in the wayward fitter reignited. Waiting at the lights, a stream of traffic began to move across the T-intersection on their way out of the city. As a black limousine turned, he caught a glimpse of Maholm in the rear seat. Without thinking, he accelerated, swiftly U-turning and taking up chase. He maneuvered his way in and out of traffic, trying to get within range of the limousine. As he sought to go around the middle section of the road, Rackswell's car clipped a light pole and started spinning out of control. As he spun through the traffic, he smashed into cars that in turn continued the dangerous dance. Drivers in the cars ahead became preoccupied with the scene unfolding in their rear view mirrors, failing to notice the red light they were approaching at the main highway. As they spilled over into the intersection, they crashed into oncoming traffic, including the limousine carrying Clayton Brand's precious cargo, Gillian Maholm. The limousine was thrown into a light pole. After 10 minutes, the maelstrom cooled down, as steam and smoke arose from the column of wrecked cars.
Gillian was cut and bruised, but surprisingly otherwise well. The driver's head was buried in the steering wheel, with a stream of blood pouring down to the floor. Gillian looked outside at the chaotic scene that had, in an instant, transformed into an eerie silence. Suddenly, a car near her caught fire. She made her way out of the car, opening the driver side door. She unstrapped the driver and pulled him out of the car, dragged him clear of the road, and lay him on his side. He had a cut in his forehead and was unconscious, but still breathing. Gillian returned her gaze to the scene, a picture of complete silence and stillness. Suddenly, the sound returned to her ears, as she heard a voice calling out her name.
"Gillian Maholm! I need to speak to you!" shouted a man, stumbling from the overpass to the intersection of the highway. She recognised the man: Moe Rackswell. Gillian knew that sirens would be descending on their position soon, given the small size of the mining area. She also knew that this might be her one and only chance to escape from the indentured servitude she faced if the dredging situation in Wax Ridge didn't change. Thoughts raced through her mind. She knew what Moe Rackswell wanted to know, but she had nothing to say. Besides, Gillian didn't really know what was going on herself. Whatever information she could share with Rackswell, it wouldn't be enough. Simian Hill had it's grip on her, and Fort Simian was too weak to intervene.
She turned, and disappeared into the bushes, making her way to the port.
The Port of Simian Hill: Way out of here.
Bruce Morrison buzzed the door, "Hey, it's Bruce here. Let me in.". The door buzzed back. Morrison opened the door, and, while leaving it ajar, looked back on the street.
The view Morrison was presented with as he entered the apartment complex.
Morrison stepped into the lift, and pressed the button for the fourteenth floor. He checked his notebook, ruminating over the tumultuous events that had beset Fort Simian. The lift door opened. He walked out, and knocked on the door of apartment 1323. The door opened.
"Hi Mike, thanks for hearing me out today."
Mike Baseball smiled. "No need to thank me, friend".
The two walked into a lavish living room overseeing the city of Fort Simian. Mike prepared some drinks as Bruce got to business.
"The Owner's Group are the last holdouts. It's Tse, he won't let anyone sell. The Old Town is out of bounds for the moment."
Mike looked up from the bar benchtop in his outrageously ostentatious apartment.
"How is the feeling on the ground?"
"People want to sell. Think they are getting a good deal. Tse wasn't willing to sell, but - get this - he's come back to play ball, but he's asking six times our original offer".
"Six times? Is he insane?"
"That's just the start of it. He's saying that the rest of the Owner's Group are on board with him. The only way we're getting the Old Town is if we pay up - more for Old Town than the rest of the real estate we've bought up so far."
"Well, we need to move fast. That Rio takeover is going to happen soon. Rick was saying that Bevan had a very secretive meeting with Villiers Moineau a couple of weeks ago. He thinks they've already signed over the city to Rio Preto for the rights to our coal. Or at least some sort of agreement to do so in the future. You know, once Villiers Moineau is involved, it's big."
"So what do we do?"
Mike Baseball returned, drinks in hand.
"Join me on the lifestyle deck, I'll tell you the plan there."
The view from the "Lifestyle deck", at Mike Baseball's apartment.
"Wow, quite a view here. What's beyond the horizon?"
"Who knows, and who cares" retorted Baseball, as he sipped his whisky sour.
"Now, listen Bruce. Bevan is going to have to ratify the sale in the council, and I guarantee you, it will be limited rights and probably some sort of loan or bond arrangement. Which means the Table Mount real estate can still be yours. But there is a catch."
"Oh, what's that?"
"You'll have to forgo the Owner's Group for now. We can't legislate to 'compel' them to sell until we are in government, which we will be, because the sale to Rio needs to go ahead first."
"So you're not opposed to the sale then? What about all that demonisation of Bevan about the thought of sale? To be honest, we were starting to wonder about the Blue party".
"We are publicly opposed to the sale, because everyone in the city is opposed to it. But we won't bring the hammer down on the government until the sale is complete. Then, we don't need to mention it again. That Rio money will fill up the public bank, and then the Sizzle Group can have it's Sizzle Casinos build on Table Mount".
"Ah, right. I suppose you feel the same about the debt, utilities and so forth?"
"That's right. We just want government. We'll worry about the details later. The people of Fort Simian will find Bevan so loathsome by the time we are finished, that they will just be glad she's gone, the witch. Then Fort Simian will be open for business".
"So you become treasurer, Green becomes Mayor, we get ownership of the major industrial and commercial centres and exclusive access to new real estate not covered under the Rio agreement, and everyone is happy?"
"That's right. Let's drink - "
Morrison interrupted Baseball.
"-to the downfall of Bevan and her rabble."
Clare Bevan led treasurer Chris Bowandarrow out to the open air balcony of the city hall. She took a deep breath, inhaling the fresh ocean air.
"Chris, we should enjoy this time here, because we won't have much more of it".
"But I thought you said we could stay in, and win the next election?"
"That's our persona to the public. In reality, Green is too negative. People are in fear, and the unresolved lizard disaster is the point around which they rally. We can't solve it, we just can't" Bevan said with an air of melancholy.
"Surely we can. I mean, sure, the budget hasn't been especially great since, but what could we do? What could Green have done differently?"
"That's not the point. He is exploiting ignorance, he is tunneling everyone's opinion into his narrative. People don't consider how he might have handled it. They just consider that they don't like how we handled it."
"Well, what do we do about it?"
"We're selling our coal assets to Rio Preto for a million dollar, interest free cash injection into the economy. A gift".
"We have to. We don't have the finances to keep the city going. Our new coal mine isn't producing enough coal to cover the deficit. If taxes go up 1% more, then it will be open revolt. If services are switched off, there will be rioting in the streets. We've got no choice if we want to keep this city together".
"But we said we wouldn't do this! And this is another one of those 'giant lizards' that will -"
"I know. But it has to happen. If not now, then the city will be done for."
"So, when, when do we legislate for the sale?"
"Next week. Keep it quiet, treasury already knows."
"You went behind my back to do this?"
"Just estimates. The deal is made. We just need to ratify it."
"This is outrageous! When were you going to tell me - and what about the party?"
Bevan looked out at the city view from the balcony and sighed.
City Hall - June, Year 5
Bevan's view from the city hall balcony.
"This is it I'm afraid."
"So you've given up then?"
"No, I'm just disappointed in the path this city has taken. But we will have other opportunities to make this city, and this region, the best place in the Wax Universe".
"Oh, and how is that if we're in opposition?"
"Because Wax Ridge will change everything".
Hu Tse parked on the roadside in front of his house, blocked from his driveway by a luxury car. As he walked up to his house, a disconcerting feeling entering his stomach. He opened the door, and seated in his living room were his wife and Bruce Morrison.
"What is he doing here?" Tse queried his wife.
Morrison looked up and spoke.
"You're going to sell at our price, or face the consequences."
The Old Town.